Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Lie, lay, laid...

I think this might be a sign of my becoming a grumpy old man, but there is a song that drives me mad every time I hear it. It's not because it's a soppy bit of nonsense that goes nowhere whatsoever, a sort of cut-price torch song that would give its eye teeth to have half of the emotional impact and a quarter of the lyrical interest of something like The Smiths' There is a light that never goes out. No. It's because of its appalling grammar. The song is Chasing cars by Snow Patrol. (The full horror of the lyrics can be found here.)

The offensive part is unfortunately the chorus, which repeatedly wonders: 'If I lay here, if I just lay here, would you lay with me...' on and on and on. What are they? Battery hens? The most annoying thing is that they could have said 'If I lie...' with no consequences for metre or rhyme. I have to turn it off every time it comes on the radio.

And don't get me started on Midge Ure's 'classic' If I was...

2 comments:

alemi said...

The song lyrics are:
"If I just lay... If I just lay here, would you lie with me?"

Which seems to be correct, couldn't you just as well say:
"If I just played... If I just played basketball, would you play with me?"

JIW said...

Well, even if the third verb is 'lie' (which would indeed be correct) the problem with the first is that they confuse 'to lie' (intransitive) with 'to lay' (transitive) both in the present indicative. What they need is a subjecuntive, for the unfulfilled conditional 'If ... would you'. For may verbs in English this would indeed be indistinguishable from the past tense (as is the case for 'play'). Unfortunately, here they have gone for the imperfect of 'to lie' (I lie (present), I lay... (imperfect)) when they need a subjunctive. It should be 'Were I to lie here, would you lie with me...?'